A Tennessee jury has found former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Vandenburg guilty of multiple counts of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery in a case that stems from the 2013 gang rape of a woman he had been dating.
The case gained national attention and sparked discussion about the prevalence of sexual assault on U.S. college campuses. That discussion has received new momentum recently following outrage over the six month sentence handed to Brock Turner, a former Stanford swimmer, for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.
Vandenburg and another former player, Corey Batey, had been convicted in January 2015, as The Two-Way reported. But a judge declared a mistrial last June, after it emerged that one of the jurors had not disclosed that he had been raped. Batey was convicted again in April, The Associated Press reported. Two other defendants are awaiting trial.
Jurors deliberated for about five hours on Saturday, as WPLN reporter Natasha Senjanovic tells our Newscast unit, and Vandenburg, 23, “showed no emotion as the verdict was delivered.” Here’s more from Senjanovic:
“Although prosecutors said he may not have physically committed rape, Vandenburg was accused of encouraging three of his former Vanderbilt teammates to do so, in his dorm room. And of taking pictures and video of the assault.
“The victim didn’t even know she had been raped until police showed her that footage. Vandenburg now faces up to 25 years in prison.”
And as The Tennessean reports, “the victim nodded in the courtroom as the verdicts against the man she once trusted were read one by one.” It has taken nearly three years to reach this verdict. Sentencing is expected in July, Reuters reports.
“All of this doesn’t happen very often,” Assistant Attorney General Jan Norman told reporters after the verdict, the Tennessean reports. “It doesn’t happen to a rape victim. The media scrutiny and having it in the headlines every single time there’s a hearing and everything is streamed and people are commenting. She is one of the strongest people that I know. She has incredible courage. She is just an amazing, intelligent young woman.”
Vandenburg’s defense has argued that “he was drunk and should not be held responsible for what players he didn’t even know did to the woman,” the AP reports. On the other hand, the wire service says the prosecution has portrayed him “as a man who violated the female student’s trust by plying her with alcohol and then encouraging teammates to sexually assault her.”
In her closing arguments, the wire service reports, Norman said: “He served her up to three strangers – for whatever reason, it doesn’t matter, is that he did it.”
Vandenburg’s lawyer Randall Reagan tells the Tennessean that “there would be an appeal.”